66 Cool Tool Hacks That are Super Useful for DIYers
Tool hacks usually happen on the fly, when you’re in a situation that calls for a tool to be modified slightly or used in a way that’s different than its intended purpose. Many of the following tool hacks were created for those reasons—and some were just stumbled upon while tinkering in the shop.
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Quick Woodworking File
This DIY woodworking file comes in handy for sanding in tight spaces. Cut a piece of sandpaper to fit around a paint stir stick. Then use spray adhesive or an all-purpose glue to adhere to the stick. Write the sandpaper grit on the handle for the stir stick, if you plan to store it for later use.
Custom Pads for a Mechanic’s Vise
Make custom pads for a mechanic’s vise by cutting wood blocks to fit across the vise shaft. Use a jigsaw to cut out the notches in the wood blocks, and add a bead of hot glue (optional) to hold them in place on the vise.
More Planing, Less Exercise
Always Know Where to Find Your Paint Can Opener
Here’s how to always have a paint can opener on hand when you’re ready to start a painting project. Use pliers or a multi-tool to slightly bend open the loop of the opener. Then hook it onto the handle of the paint can you just purchased.
Use a Sneaker to Clean Sandpaper
Make sandpaper new again with an old sneaker. Start up your power sander and dust collection system (remember to wear hearing and eye protection). Then slowly press the rubber sole of the sneaker along the sandpaper — you’ll see a difference instantly!
How to Magnetize a Screwdriver
Magnetize the end of a screwdriver to drive screws with just one hand. This tip is especially useful for working in tight spaces where there isn’t room for you to hold a screw with one hand while you turn the screwdriver with the other.
Brush with a Drill
Got a big scrubbing job on your to-do list? Attach a brush to your drill and save the elbow grease. You can make a DIY version with a dish brush, or you can find store-bought drill-ready brushes in a variety of sizes and shapes to fit any job.
Kitty Litter Pouch for Tool Protection
Make a rust-preventing pouch for your toolbox with a scoop of silica crystal kitty litter. Wrap it in a piece of breathable fabric and secure it with a zip tie. Then toss it in your toolbox to keep out excess moisture and protect prized possessions.
Caulk Gun Clamp
Did you know that you can use a caulk gun as a clamp? It’s perfect for gluing up small projects such as a cutting board. Just place a couple of pieces of scrap wood or cardboard at the ends of the caulk gun and then squeeze the trigger to apply pressure.
A rubber chair leg cap instantly converts a hammer into a rubber mallet. And if you want to drive a nail without denting the surrounding wood, cut a hole in the rubber cap. Pound until the rubber strikes wood, then finish driving the nail with a nail set. A 1-1/8-in. rubber cap fits tightly over most hammers.
Check if Your Square is Square
Follow these simple steps to ensure that your square is accurate. Alight the short side of the square with the factory edge of a piece of plywood. Draw a line along the edge of the long side of the square. Flip over the tool and align the base of the mark with the same edge of the long side of the square. Draw another line. If the marks do not align perfectly, the square is not square.
How to Fix a Square
Before tossing your off-kilter square and spending money on a new one, try fixing it with this simple process. Use a center punch, a hammer, and an anvil. If the sides of the square are too close together, punch the inner corner. If the sides are too far apart, punch the outer corner. Check your progress, and repeat as needed until the square is square.
Lighted Screwdriver Hack
No need for fancy hand tools with built-in LED lights. Tape a key chain-size flashlight to the shaft of your screwdriver. It’ll shine the light right where you need it, like when working in a dark space such as inside a cabinet.
Save your back by storing your air compressor on a mechanic’s creeper; making it easy to tote around your workshop or garage. Depending on the size of your compressor, you may be able to store your hose on the creeper as well.
Saddles for Sawhorses
Give your sawhorses a padded surface to protect your projects by wrapping the top rails with pieces of carpet or rugs. Use a utility knife and a straightedge to cut the carpet along the woven backing; then secure the pieces to the sawhorses with staples.
Bobby Pin Nail Holder
There’s no need to risk hammering a finger when working with tiny nails or in tight corners. A common bobby pin makes a great nail holder, and keeps your fingers at a safe distance! Once the nail is started, remove the bobby pin and continue hammering away.
Vise-Grips to Pull Nails
Vise-grip pliers make great nail pullers. The tool locks onto the nail, creating a secure hold, and the curve of the head provides excellent leverage. Use a putty knife under the pliers if you plan to salvage the material after removing the nails.
Circle Gets the Square
Here’s a magical way to trace perfect arcs and circles for your project. Tap two finish nails at the ends of a desired diameter, then rotate a framing square against the nails while holding a pencil in the square’s corner. Spray the underside of the square with silicone or rub on some paraffin oil to make it glide smoother. (Here’s another way to cut circles with a yardstick.)
Customized Chuck Key
Measure the diameter and length of the chuck key’s handle and drill a matching hold in the end of a 4-in. x 3/4-in.-diameter wood dowel. Then hold the handle in a vise and tap the dowel onto the chuck with a hammer. The advantages? Besides no longer scraping your fingers on the gears, you’ll have increased leverage with less effort and a much more comfortable grip when tightening the chuck.
Here’s how to trim dowel plugs flush on fine furniture projects without damaging the wood. Apply a couple layers of masking tape or a single layer of duct tape to a hacksaw blade with an untaped section between for sawing. While you’re sawing, the tape elevates the blade just enough so it won’t scratch the surrounding wood. After sawing, lightly sand the dowel to make it completely flush.
Last-Ditch Nail Pulling
If you’re trying to pull a nail and the head breaks off, try gripping the nail tightly with a pair of locking pliers. Then pull against the pliers with a crowbar.
When you need to extend the reach of your cordless drill, just pull the shaft out of a multi-bit screwdriver and camp it in the chuck. How easy is that?
Longer-Lasting Utility Blade
Most often, it’s just the tip that gets dull on a utility knife. When it does, snap off the tip with pliers and you’re in business again. Wear eye protection, because sometimes a little piece of the blade goes flying!
Mini Drywall Saw
A course jigsaw blade mounted in a scrap of wood makes a handy little drywall saw. It’s easy to carry and is good for cutting around electrical boxes and other tight spots.
No-Dent Nail Finishing
Avoid denting your project with the help of a simple wood shim. With a thin-blade saw, saw a narrow kerf into the end of the wood shim. Then press a finish nail into the slot, hold the shim against the molding, and drive in the nail. The soft wood shim lets you deliver a final firm blow so the nail head is nearly flush with the surface.
PVC Sanding Files
To sand concave curves to perfection transform PVC pipes into sanding files. Wrap a PVC pipe with your choice of sandpaper using spray adhesive. Spray both the paper and the pipe for a good stick. When the sandpaper wears out, simply pull it off and spray fresh adhesive to attach a new strip.
Make Your Own Awl
An awl is great for punching small holes in drywall for plastic screw anchors. An awl pushes through easily, resulting in much less dust than drilling. Store-bought awls are usually too small for this task, so make your own by grinding a sharp tip onto the end of an old, worn-out screwdriver using a disc sander or bench grinder.
Hang Your Roofing Tools
Use spring clamps to keep your hoses, extension cords, and other tools and materials from sliding off the roof. Don’t try this on brittle or scorching hot shingles or you may damage them. You can create a handier hook by sticking the clamp in a vise and bending up one of the handles.
Clamp With a Tie-Down Strap
If you need to clamp boxes together, a ratchet tie-down strap can often do the job just as well as band clamps. Just make sure to protect the wood under the ratchet and hooks with cardboard.
Mix Concrete with a Rake
Try using a garden rake instead of a hoe the next time you have to mix concrete. The rate won’t splash as much water over the edge, and the tines do a good job of combining the water with the powder. With a hoe, you waste a lot of time just pushing powder around the tub.
Make Mini Roller Covers
Next time you’re in the paint department, pick up a 3-in. roller frame, the type that fits the same diameter cover as a standard 9-in. roller. You can then cut any 9-in. roller cover into three 3-in. covers to fit it. Mark the 9-in. roller covers 3 in. in from each end. Cut into equal pieces with a hacksaw, holding the cover steady with a bar clamp. Trim the rough edges of the nap with scissors.
Use a Level to Extend Your Table Saw Fence
The only way to achieve a perfectly straight cut is to keep your material tight up against the table saw fence. But that’s hard to do when you’re cutting a large sheet of plywood on your own. Extending the fence with a 4-ft. level will make it easier to keep the plywood on a straight and narrow path as it approaches and passes through the blade. Hold the level in place with a couple of clamps.
Use a Drill to Dig Through Hard Soil
If you’re working on an outdoor winter project, you might be faced with frozen ground that’s as tough as concrete. Use a drill with a masonry bit to dig straight through the hard soil.
Make a Blade for Cutting Foam
A jigsaw will cut through rigid foam like butter — except butter doesn’t crumble into thousands of bits that mess up your shop, basement or garage. If you remove the teeth from a jigsaw blade, it will cut the foam just as well but without the mess. Remove the teeth with a grinder, and be sure to wear eye protection. Hold on to the blade with locking pliers, not your fingers!
Lift Doors With a Flat Pry Bar
If you’ve ever had to remove a solid-core door, you know how heavy they can be. Lifting them up to reinstall hinge pins can be a challenge if you’re working alone, but a flat pry bar (aka “flat bar”) can give you just the leverage you need. If your flat bar won’t raise the door high enough, install a small block of wood at the fulcrum point of the pry bar to increase the lifting distance. Hold the block in place with a small screw and washer. Make sure the screw doesn’t poke through. If it does, grind off the end so it won’t damage the floor.
PVC Hammer Holder
To make your own hammer holder, use a hacksaw to cut away one side of a 6-in. piece of 2-in. PVC pipe, leaving 2 in. at the bottom to drop the hammer into. Create belt slots by drilling 1/4-in. holes in two lines.
Quick-Draw Hammer Storage
Here’s an instant rack for hammer storage! Drive 2-in. drywall screws into a board and tack it to a shop wall. Hook the hammers on the screws so it looks like they’re ready to pull out a nail. The hammer claw’s V-notch interlocks tightly with the screw threads so the hammer won’t fall off, and the handle angles toward you for an easy grasp.
Free Finger Saver
When using small nails, it’s hard to get a good grip on them. Here’s a solution: use a plastic lid from a small peanut can. Just trim the lid back and drill a small hole near the end. Then cut a slit leading away from the hole so that when you pull the lid back it releases from the nail.
Hammer Lumber Splitter
The claw of a hammer serves as a mini-axe to split wood blocks or chop off protruding board edges.
Homemade Hammer Mallet
Cover a metal hammer with a tennis ball to protect the surfaces of your projects. Carefully cut an “X” in the ball with a sharp utility knife. Make it just large enough for the head of the hammer to slide through. If you don’t want to waste a tennis ball, check out this combination mallet.
When you need to extend the reach of your hammer to get into a tight spot, the hinge pin from an old door hinge makes a great punch.
Maximize Your Hammer Power
Ram the claw of your hammer into the nail shank and rock it sideways using the claw edge as a pivot point. Repeat the process until you pry out the nail. This technique produces maximum pulling power with little stress on the handle. Learn more tips for removing stuck nails here.
Get Rid of Caked-On Drywall
If you end up with a putty knife that’s covered in hard, caked-on mud don’t throw it out just yet. Instead, take out your favorite random orbit sander and get to work. Pick a grit around 120 and just sand off the dried-on mud exactly the same as you would the mud off of a wall. Just make sure you aren’t too aggressive and don’t end up damaging the blade.
Safer Trim Nailing
Here’s an oldie-but-goodie that’ll save your ﬁngertips when you’re driving small brads or nails into awkward spots. Push the nail into a thin strip of cardboard to hold it in position while nailing and to shield the wood from an errant hammer blow.
Help with Paint-Clogged Screw Heads
If you live in an old house, you’ve probably run into screw heads clogged with layers of paint. Instead of trying to scrape out the paint, try this trick: simply take a driver bit, set it on top of the screw head, and give it a couple of taps with a hammer until it sets itself in the screw’s slots.
PVC Blade Storage
The blades for a reciprocating saw can quickly turn into an unorganized mess. To keep your blades in order, make storage tubes from 1-1/4-in. PVC pipe and end caps. Just cut the pipe to length, glue one end, and then label and store! The open end gets friction-fitted with the cap. Now you can find the right blade at a glance! Don’t miss these other brilliant PVC hacks.
Quick and Easy Pilot Holes
To avoid splitting material, the best solution is to drill a pilot hole before you use a nail; but what do you do if you don’t have the proper size bit on hand? Simply lop off the head of the nail, insert the nail body into your drill chuck, and you’re ready to roll!
Instant Magnetic Screw Holder
If you’ve ever struggled to retrieve fasteners or drill bits, fumbling to pull them out of a pocket while half-way through a project, then this is the hack for you! Use a little dab of superglue (or even hot glue) on the frame of your drill and attach a strong magnet in the perfect spot to keep screws and loose materials easily accessible while you work.
Give Yourself a Little Give
When drilling a smooth surface, it can be difficult to get a hole started without “walking” the bit. Some materials are soft enough that you can use a nail set or punch to create a dimple to seat the bit. But other materials, such as glass, are a little more challenging. For this simple hack, keep some painter’s tape and dense cardboard in your tool bag. Tape the cardboard over the area you want to drill, then use a carbide-tipped bit at low-speed to create a divot in the material. The cardboard will steady the bit, and once you have a starter hole you can discard the cardboard and proceed as usual.
A Simple Drill Depth Stop
Use this hack to always get the perfect drill depth for your project. Use a permanent marker on your drill bit to indicate the target depth, and simply stop drilling when you reach the line. Once you’ve finished your project, wipe the drill bit with some paint remover or Goo Gone, and the marker ink should come right off.
Super-Long Bit Extender
Sometimes you need just a little extra reach on your drill bit. Here’s how to make your own. Buy a 3-ft. piece of 5/16-in. threaded rod and a 5/16-in. coupling nut. Pound the hex end of a bit driver into the coupling nut, which is typically a hair smaller than the driver (squash the coupling nut in a vise if it’s too big). Screw the coupling nut onto the end of the threaded rod (saw off any unneeded length with a hacksaw), and chuck the rod into your drill. Stick a drill or screw bit into the driver for extended reach.
Make a Squeegee From a Rake
Need a squeegee in a hurry? Take a piece of pipe insulation and use a couple of cable ties to fasten it to the back of a garden rake. Works like a charm, and you don’t even have to take it off to use the rake.
Use pieces of garden hose or another tubing to soften the jaws of your pliers so you can grip delicate surfaces without damage. Size them to also fit the plier handles so you can have a convenient place to store them where they’ll never get lost. (Don’t miss these three tools pros always have on hand.)
Use a Rubber Band to Grip Stripped Screws
We’ve all stripped one or two screws in our day. Next time you run into this frustration, lay a rubber band between the stripped screw and your screwdriver; then unscrew. The rubber band should help grip the stripped screw head.
Rubber Band Bolt Holder
Speaking of rubber bands, they can also be used as a bolt holder. Simply cut a rubber band into strips and lay a strip across the opening of the bolt socket. Then insert the bolt head. The rubber band will wedge the bolt head into the socket, allowing you to start threading without losing the bolt.
Long Reach Shears
Slip PVC pipes over the handles of your pruning shears and tape them in place. This will extend your reach so you clip high branches without a ladder. Now you have no excuse to not trim that overgrown tree!
Handy Rake Handle
Save your back when raking mulch or shoveling heaps of dirt by adding another handle to your long-handle tools. A section of PVC pipe with a tee fitting and cap works perfectly. Add a screw through the tee fitting and into the handle so it won’t budge. Here are the 10 best leaf rakes.
Drill Bit Girdle
Save those wide rubber bands that are wrapped around broccoli and other veggies to use on your electric drill. Stretch a rubber band over the drill and use it and a handy spot to hold small screws and driver bits. Check out these awesome hardware storage containers to organize your workshop.
This simple hauler made out of a wood pallet is perfect for transporting loads of lumber or heavy tools around the workshop. Add a bit of reinforcement to the pallet first; then install four swiveling casters, one at each corner.